Archive

January 9th, 2016

High Taxes, Regulations, and a Swell Economy

    In the mythology of the right, California must fail. Its high taxes, strict environmental rules and thick book of regulations are all ingredients in the conservative recipe for economic meltdown. That California is prospering nicely throws a pie in the face of its harshest critics.

    To get around this clash of ideas and reality, an alternative version of California-going-down has been created. It is built on cherry-picked facts, numbers out of context and anecdotes. And the right continues churning out stories of companies "fleeing" California.

    The conservative City Journal has devoted its winter issue to what's wrong with California. One piece accuses "coastal elites" of destroying drought-plagued almond farmers by "privileging the needs of fish over the needs of people." (What the fish need is a minimum water flow to their habitats to save them from extinction.)

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Did Bill Cosby's grandpa sweater make you feel bad for him? Why this con didn't work

    Bill Cosby's perp walk was striking for its overwhelming lack of grace and power. It was an exploitation of our assumptions of fragile old age.

    It was the explicit manipulation of a studiously unattractive sweater.

    Cosby, who is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004, arrived at the small courthouse in suburban Philadelphia last week on the supportive arms of two attorneys. He looked as though he had been suddenly rousted from a fireside nap, helped up from his comfortable rocking chair and asked to put aside his favorite cigar, then forced to make a bewildering appearance before a judge. That was the first-glance illusion as he stumbled down the path towards the courthouse door.

    For Cosby, of course, none of this - the charges, the perp walk, the media throng - was a surprise. One of Cosby's attorneys, Monique Pressley, has said as much. And so, there was time for his costuming to be considered.

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A Donald Trump campaign that might have been

    As 2016 begins, Republicans confront two challenges that are as familiar as they are profound. First, they remain an essentially all-white party in an increasingly multiracial nation. Second, the party's economic platform -- cut taxes for the wealthiest and everything will somehow work out -- long ago lost its purchase on public opinion.

    After a year or so of vigorous presidential campaigning, the party has made no progress whatsoever bringing its economic fantasy into alignment with the real world. As Ezra Klein wrote in October after a typically daft round of responses at a Republican debate, "Republicans have boxed themselves into some truly bizarre policies -- including a set of tax cuts that give so much money to the rich, and blow such huge holes in the deficit, that simply asking about them in any serious way seems like a vicious attack."

    Meantime, on racial inclusion, Republicans have lost ground. A primary campaign featuring two talented Cuban-American senators and a former governor who married a Mexican and speaks Spanish at home has been dominated by open appeals to white racial resentment and xenophobia.

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Women 'just' don't need your new email-policing app

    There's a new plug-in for Gmail called Just Not Sorry, which is currently making the media rounds on Slate, NPR, the "Today" show and elsewhere. The app is aimed at women who in their emails use what its creator, Cyrus Innovation chief executive Tami Reiss, calls "undermining words," such as "sorry" and "just." When a user types such words, they get underlined in red as if they were misspelled. In a post on Medium, Reiss frames this as a service to women leaders, because such words sabotage their authority.

    SORRY, but no.

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With ‘open carry,’ gun lobby gets what it wants: more fear

    When I was 10 I had a yo-yo. It was blue with marbled streaks of silver. At school we weren’t supposed to have yo-yos. But what’s the point of a yo-yo if one can’t show it off?

    So I empathized with those who came to the Texas Capitol on New Year’s Day with fancy toys openly displayed on their hips and shoulders, from AR15s to the latest from the minds of Glock. Joyous they were. The fourth-graders had finally taken over.

    Pursuant to a newborn law, Texas had just joined the “open carry” movement.

    After their Capitol demonstration, a bunch of the open-carriers convened at a nearby Subway. This meant other customers stood inches away in line from all that firepower. It must have made them feel safe. Would you like chips with that?

    Well, of course it didn’t make those customers feel safe. It made them feel ill, and just before lunch.

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Why aren't we calling the Oregon occupiers 'terrorists?'

    As of Sunday afternoon, The Washington Post called them "occupiers." The New York Times opted for "armed activists" and "militia men." And The Associated Press put the situation this way: "A family previously involved in a showdown with the federal government has occupied a building at a national wildlife refuge in Oregon and is asking militia members to join them."

    Not one seemed to lean toward terms such as "insurrection," "revolt," anti-government "insurgents" or, as some on social media were calling them, "terrorists." When a group of unknown size and unknown firepower has taken over any federal building with plans and possibly some equipment to aid a years-long occupation - and when its representative tells reporters that they would prefer to avoid violence but are prepared to die - the kind of almost-uniform delicacy and the limits on the language used to describe the people involved becomes noteworthy itself.

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Hillary Clinton's challenges in the fight against terrorism

    As President Barack Obama has conducted his ill-fated experiment in diminished U.S. leadership, he has fended off critics with what many dismissed as a straw-man argument: that the only alternative to his approach was mindless bellicosity.

    Then Ted Cruz came along - and turned out to be the straw man. When the Republican Texas senator saidof the Islamic State that he would "carpet-bomb them into oblivion" and find out "if sand can glow in the dark," it seemed he wanted to prove that mindless bellicosity was no figment of Obama's imagination.

    But there is a common thread to what Obama and Cruz offer: the false promise of an easy way out for the United States in the fight against terrorism.

    Obama wanted Americans to believe, and may have believed himself, that the "tide of war is receding," as he said in 2011. It turned out that he could end the United States' wars, temporarily, but that didn't mean the wars ended - and before long, the president was forced to return Americans to battle.

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Elections Have Consequences

   You have to be seriously geeky to get excited when the Internal Revenue Service releases a new batch of statistics. Well, I’m a big geek; like quite a few other people who work on policy issues, I was eagerly awaiting the IRS’s tax tables for 2013, which were released last week.

   And what these tables show is that elections really do have consequences.

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January 5th

Our New Year Quiz

    Happy New Year! We’re going to have an exciting 2016 — including, of course, the finale of a presidential race that seems to have been underway since Woodstock.

    So much to look back on, so little time. Take this quick quiz and see how much of political 2015 you haven’t already managed to repress:

 

    1. In her final statement of the last 2015 debate, Hillary Clinton concluded …

    A. “May the Force be with you.”

    B. “We need to discuss the restroom issue.”

    C. “Have I mentioned I’m a grandmother?”

 

    2. The Democratic National Committee tried to ensure maximum TV ratings for that debate by ...

    A. Inviting Adele to ask the first question.

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Elections Have Consequences

    You have to be seriously geeky to get excited when the Internal Revenue Service releases a new batch of statistics. Well, I’m a big geek; like quite a few other people who work on policy issues, I was eagerly awaiting the IRS’s tax tables for 2013, which were released last week.

    And what these tables show is that elections really do have consequences.

    You might think that this is obvious. But on the left, in particular, there are some people who, disappointed by the limits of what President Barack Obama has accomplished, minimize the differences between the parties. Whoever the next president is, they assert — or at least, whoever it is if it’s not Bernie Sanders — things will remain pretty much the same, with the wealthy continuing to dominate the scene. And it’s true that if you were expecting Obama to preside over a complete transformation of America’s political and economic scene, what he’s actually achieved can seem like a big letdown.

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